Carl F. Bucherer, the luxury watch brand owned by Swiss retail giant Bucherer, is enjoying a decade of sensational growth thanks to its sustained investment in innovation, creativity and precision manufacturing. The watchmaker’s CEO Sascha Moeri is also an member of the Group Executive Committee of Bucherer, which has opened up huge opportunities for growth thanks to its acquisitions of The Watch Gallery in the UK in 2017 and Tourneau in the United States this year. In this exclusive interview, WatchPro editor Rob Corder learns how successful the Carl F. Bucherer watch brand has become in the past decade and how it fits into the wider global ambitions of the family-owned Bucherer empire.
WatchPro: There has been an uptick in activity in the UK for Carl F. Bucherer since your parent company Bucherer bought the Watch Gallery. Can you give us an update on how the watch business is performing in the UK, the USA and the wider international market?
Sascha Moeri: In 2010, when I joined the company, we were selling 6,000 watches yearly. Now we are selling 25,000 Carl F. Bucherer watches per year. The limit today is down to production capacity rather than demand. We are happy that we have been able to build additional production capacity that will enable us to produce up to 27-28,000 pieces this year.
On the distribution side, we managed to establish 350 points of sale worldwide. 40% of our turnover comes from Europe, predominantly thanks to our own Bucherer stores in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, France and now the UK, of course. Another 40% is generated in Asia by the work of independent retailers. By the end of this year, we will have established 150 points of sale in Asia.
In the United States, before Bucherer’s acquisition of Tourneau, we already worked with 80 top independent retailers. Of course, this takeover is key to further growth in the US market which offers a tremendous potential for fine watches.
WatchPro: Do the acquisitions of Tourneau in the United States and The Watch Gallery in the UK affect your strategy moving forward as a watch brand?
Sascha Moeri: No, because for the last few years, we have completely changed our product offering. If you look back to 2010, eight out of ten timepieces we sold were men’s watches, and only two were ladies watches. Now, with 25,000 timepieces per year, we sell 60% to male and 40% to female customers.
Offering altogether five lines, we managed to establish a well-balanced portfolio. While the Patravi collection stands out with its striking and sportive design, the classic Manero line reflects the art of watchmaking in its most authentic form. We also provide two dedicated ladies lines. Price-wise, the range within the collections is very strong and attractive – from an entry level offer in basic steel with an automatic movement to high-end watches with in-house movements towards complications and jewelry watches.
Also, different markets prefer different types of watches. Among the top 10 of sold Carl F. Bucherer timepieces in the US are three or four Patravi TravelTec and the same number of Patravi ScubaTec line. Those watches do not make it into the top 10 in Asia where the Manero, Pathos and Adamavi line are the top sellers. Also the taste of European customers is very diverse. While Eastern Europeans tend to buy larger timepieces, coming in gold and adorned with diamonds, customers from the UK, Italy and Spain prefer simple, clean and classy watches.
WatchPro: How much of your distribution is concentrated in the largest cities in the world?
Sascha Moeri: In the UK, our distribution network is organized centrally, with a focus on Greater London. London is a key city for us, and I am happy that our parent company Bucherer was able to purchase The Watch Gallery which means a great opportunity also for Carl F. Bucherer. The same applies to the rest of Europe. Our goal is to have presences in all of the major cities where we can build up brand awareness.
In all destinations, our target customer is the watch enthusiast and collector who are fascinated by our timepieces, the brand and its heritage behind. Our intension and promise is to remain exclusive, not mass market.
WatchPro: Do you also focus on key cities like London because they are destinations for watch connoisseurs on a global basis?
Sascha Moeri: Of course. The global traveler and the world citizen are very interesting customers for Carl F. Bucherer. Being hedonists, they are always a step ahead of the times, constantly seeking for the latest inspiration all over the world. These customers can specifically be reached in key cities and international airports.
WatchPro: How do changes in different territories of the global economy affect Carl F. Bucherer. For example, China and Hong Kong were so strong five years ago for Swiss watches, then that market cooled for a few years before coming back. The United States has been slow for several years, but is picking up again.
Sascha Moeri: We possess a big advantage in this regard. In 1888, Carl Friedrich Bucherer founded the company in Lucerne, Switzerland. He handed it over to his two sons, and today, one of their sons, Jörg G. Bucherer, is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and sole owner of the group. Thus, we enjoy the privilege of long term thinking and value based working. Also, as Carl F. Bucherer is not mass market, downturns affect us a less. Furthermore, we benefit from a well balanced distribution with our markets in Europe, Asia, USA and the rest of the world.
WatchPro: How are things looking for you this year?
Sascha Moeri: I am positive. Russia and Europe are performing well, and also Asia is picking up, especially China. The US market, particularly also thanks to the acquisition of Tourneau, is also performing very successfully.
WatchPro: Is it automatic that Carl F. Bucherer goes into every Tourneau store?
Sascha Moeri: Starting September 2018, we will begin an initial roll out of Carl F. Bucherer at major Tourneau points of sale in New York City, Las Vegas, Costa Mesa, Palm Beach, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Further points of sale will follow within the next year.
WatchPro: Will you also look at Bucherer jewelry in Tourneau?
Sascha Moeri: Today, Bucherer jewellery is not sold in in Tourneau stores. So, the acquisition offers significant potential.
WatchPro: I understand you are taking a step by step approach in the United States, but would you say that Bucherer’s thinking normally would be to keep as many Tourneau stores open as possible, to rename them all as Bucherer? What would you typically do in this circumstance?
Sascha Moeri: I do not want to make statements for my colleagues from retail, but we from Carl F. Bucherer know the US market quite well because Carl F. Bucherer worked there to build up to 80 points of sale the last 10 years. Bucherer’s acquisition of Tourneau offered all 550 employees a contract with Bucherer. This is a strong statement and commitment. The majority of the Tourneau stores are great opportunities for further growth in this key-market. And just recently, Guido Zumbühl, CEO of Bucherer group, announced to grow even further its business in the US by taking over the retailer Baron & Leeds, a premier luxury retailer of fine watches and jewelry with total four points of sale in California and Hawaii. Therefore long-term target is to run more stores, not less.
Now, given the fact that Carl F. Bucherer has enjoyed consistent growth over the last few years, including in the strategically important US market, also Carl F. Bucherer strengthens its investment in this market. On 1st August, we announced that Carl F. Bucherer has taken over the distribution company “Carl F. Bucherer North America Inc.” from Mr. Ron Stoll as a 100-percent subsidiary. Before that, the company was owned by Ron Stoll, who is also CEO of the company, has been an independent distributor for CFB watches in North America since 2004. The incorporation of Carl F. Bucherer North America Inc. is a vital step into a bright future for our global brand that will enable us to exploit the full potential of this exciting market.